No Mercy For the Rude (2006)
Director: Park Cheol-hie
Writers: Park Cheol-hie
Starring: Shin Ha-kyun, Yun Ji-hye and Kim Min-jun

The Plot: Killa (Shin Ha-kyun) is a young man living with a short tongue that ultimately prevents him from being able to speak aloud, so instead he lives within his own mind. Looking for an answer to his short-tongued problem, he finds a doctor who offers him a chance to travel overseas for an operation, but this will cost a great deal of money. More money than a chef could ever hope to see at one time. So, leaving behind his days as a seafood chef, he begins a new life as a hitman for hire. Using a knife as his primary weapon, despite most in his profession now turning to guns, Killa establishes himself as a killer with a moral compass. No women, no kids and the only ones to die by his hands will be “rude” or “bad” men. As Killa gets closer and closer to his goal of attaining his operation, he is introduced to a young woman who forces herself onto him and the two begin a strange new relationship. Shortly afterward Killa also runs into an orphaned child who also enters into his life and three soon become a family unit of sorts. When a botched hit threatens to undo everything for Killa, he will have to discover a way to make things right and save those he cares about.

The Review
No Mercy For the Rude is a title that has been explicitly recommended to me by my good friend Heavenztrash (from the blog In Nervous Convulsion) for well over a year at this point. His review for the film also secured its place in my “to watch pile” for the longest. In fact, I actually owe Heavenztrash a great deal of thanks for providing the images necessary to complete this review on time. Despite his glowing and well written review, it finally took the Korean cinema blogathon for me to actually give the movie its proper due. Although it hasn’t picked up the popularity that some titles have had within the film geek community, No Mercy For the Rude proves to be an exceptionally well made and entertaining entry into the professional killer subgenre. The film delves into some oddball territories now and then and turns out all the better for it, as the bizarre mix of comedy and action results in a film that delivers upon its fun premise.

Although there is a heart to No Mercy For the Rude, with real characters providing some semblance of depth, the meat and gristle of the project will no doubt remain its inventive use of gimmickry. Similar to many post-Tarantino crime films of the late nineties and early aughts, there is a primary focus on style and the “idea” factor. The idea factor simply boils down to the question: “how many gimmicks can we throw in one movie?” While I may sound sarcastic, I am not inherently against the concept. I hold no prejudice when it comes to spicing a movie up with some “out there” elements that alleviate the pains of regular genre-based movie making. For instance, our lead character portrayed by Shin Ha-Kyun (from Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance fame) isn’t solely a lonely hitman; he is also a former chef, aspiring bullfighter and an unfortunate mute who was born with a short tongue. Aside from these eccentricities, he also has a full “code” with which he lives by. His sole use of knives, instead of guns, also brings to mind Danny Trejo’s character in Desperado which was another title that made use of the “idea” factor. Along with our leading man, he also shares time with a league of other friends/killers who share very similar gimmicks. We have a former martial arts teacher who has turned to killing in order to make his living, and a former ballerina who regularly uses his superhuman agility in order to make for a better assassin.

The entertainment factory is certainly the leading reason to track down No Mercy For the Rude, but the film does offer some food amidst all of the delicious treats. The contradictory morality of our leading man is one instance that really jumps out for the audience, as we hear through his voiceover narration over and over again that he tries to justify his role in life despite the fact that we can clearly see his distaste for murder. His use of blades, while also being exceptionally “cool”, also allows for him to get close to those he kills so that he must confront their death face first. We see his character drinking heavily after going through with a job. We see him in moments of isolation and introspection immediately after killing a target, and we know that he doesn’t like this. His use of the knife, which results in him getting closer to something he doesn’t enjoy, reminds me of “mortification of the flesh” which is an act that many religions have been known to practice. The basic concept is that by torturing ones own flesh, usually with a whip across the back, you can scourge your soul of impurities. While our leading man surely feels that his work is justified by killing “rude” men, he also tortures himself by getting up close and personal with these murders as a way of purging himself of this heinous act. Sure, you can say it all just comes back to his being a seafood chef before his murdering days, but I’ll just assume that the subtext is there.

Despite the film being highly entertaining and comedic, the technical merits are actually quite impressive. The film is a visual feast, with a wide array of large framed shots that dominate the majority of the movie. The screen is constantly textured with incredible set design and strange camera angles that show off the talent of these filmmakers. In particular, I found myself impressed with our leading man’s apartment which is often shown via the corners of the various rooms. The filmmakers work well in displaying all dimensions of a room and usually fit the intersection between walls and ceiling within the frame, which gives a visual flourish that isn’t seen often. The cast, who fill up the frame, are also well handled throughout the movie. Leading man Shin Ha-Kyun is exceptional in the lead, displaying a wide variety of emotions despite having no real spoken dialogue throughout the film. He instead delivers his dialogue through voice over narration for the most part, and the combination might seem a bit cliche at first but the sardonic humor of his actions and the accompanying voiceover helps offer a good deal of the comedic moments. Jun Ji-hye, who stars as the femme fatale to our leading man’s lone-wolf character, offers the perfect mix of sass and beauty. The sarcastic wit of her character adds an extra dimension to the film and really helps to develop that undercurrent of dark humor that is painted on throughout the movie.

The Conclusion
A brilliant mix of genre types and ideas, No Mercy For the Rude may not be a perfect film but it is perfectly entertaining. I give the movie a very solid four out of five and for those of you who haven’t tracked it down, I highly recommend it. Equal parts No Blood, No Tears and A Bittersweet Life, this is a title that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.

You might also be interested in: